Cubs’ Willson Contreras hits winning HR in dramatic Wrigley return

Contreras’ dramatic Wrigley return: ‘Couldn’t write it better’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When Willson Contreras stepped up for his first plate appearance Friday, he received a 20-second standing ovation from Cubs fans welcoming him back to Wrigley Field.

Contreras, who was widely expected to be traded this week, and the Cubs were playing their first game since the deadline passed Tuesday.

Their first home game in 10 days.

That first-inning standing ovation turned out to be the second loudest Wrigley got on Friday.

Contreras cranked a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning Friday to catapult the Cubs to a 2-1 win over the Marlins.

“It was amazing, to be honest,” said Contreras, who was 0-for-3 on the day before that home run. “I was looking forward to doing something special right there.

“I know that I had three tough at-bats early in the game, but the game is not over until it’s over. I was still focused on the game, and I was looking to do some damage.

“Thank God that I was able to hit a changeup out of the ballpark and give this team a win.”

The last time the Cubs played at Wrigley seemed like a farewell for Contreras and the fanbase, which gave him multiple standing ovations before, during and after the Cubs’ July 26 win over the Pirates.

Just a day before that, Contreras got emotional discussing the probability he was playing his last homestand in a Cubs uniform.

“Last time was kind of saying goodbye,” Contreras said after Friday’s win. “It was a really emotional moment.

“But today was a really high-energy moment. I was pumped up.”

That showed as he circled the bases and after reaching home plate Friday. Contreras pointed to fans while shuffle-stepping back to the Cubs dugout.

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“Couldn’t write it better, could you?” said Cubs starter Justin Steele of Contreras’ homer. “That’s how he is. He’s a special player.

“It’s really great to still have him as a teammate.”

Contreras has said the trade rumors and speculation had a mental toll on him, and the deadline passing brought him a sense of relief and helped him relax.

“It was just weird because every time that I went up to bat [before the deadline],” Contreras said Friday, “it was hard for me to focus on the moment, and I was thinking of them pulling me out of the game or things like that.”

Even after the deadline passed without him being traded, he felt “mentally tired” Wednesday at Busch Stadium.

“I just wanted to be somewhere sleeping,” Contreras said after Friday’s win. “But I still got to play baseball and I’m getting more rest than I did the last two weeks before.”

Contreras has been on a roll since the deadline passed, and perhaps Friday will be the punctuation mark to all the conversation around him in that realm.

He now can focus entirely on baseball these next two months and helping the Cubs win ballgames without the added distractions he’s dealt with in recent weeks.

Doing it at Wrigley Field, in front of Cubs fans, means a lot to him.

“Having these fans day in and day out at this ballpark, playing here and being able to stay with the Cubs for at least two more months, I feel like I’m blessed,” Contreras said.

“And I totally am because I’ve been here my whole life. This is the only team that I know. But to be back at Wrigley Field, it’s special for me.”

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